Your Linux Data Center Experts

I know things have been kind of quiet on the blog-front here at the last few weeks. Not because we're slacking off, quite on the contrary. Over the last 2 weeks I've designed and built a virtual mail address handling system for Postfix, which produces a fully integrated mail handling system. Have 15 minutes? You can install a feature-complete mail system.

vPostMaster integrates all the common tools that you need on todays e-mail systems for handling virtual users in virtual e-mail domains. It's very much like the vpopmail system which we've used with qmail for a long time, but takes it about 3 steps further, plus brings vpopmail-like functionality to Postfix.

vpopmail is a virtual domain handling system for the qmail mail server. It's a nice package that handles routing incoming mail messages to different mailboxes for virtual users. It's a very nice tool, but has a couple of drawbacks. The first is that it's based on qmail, and qmail isn't very well maintained these days. The bigger problem is that vpopmail is very much a “batteries not included” solution.

Todays mail servers have to have anti-spam tools, and allow users to manage their settings. There is no one-size fits all solution in e-mail filtering. With vpopmail, to get to a point where most users need to be, you end up having to install a whole pile of packages including no less than 3 web management tools, webmail, an IMAP server that integrates with vpopmail, maildrop to enable SpamAssassin, and more. And the installation process is not easy, even automated install processes like QmailInstall take quite some work.

Let me back up a second to my statement about qmail not being very well maintained. We're fairly well known as being qmail advocates. Indeed,, ltd. has been using qmail since 1995, and has deployed a lot of qmail mail servers. qmail is an extremely well designed and implemented piece of software, but it hasn't had an update in something like 7 years. There are many patches available to allow it to do more things that are needed these days, but eventually the patches end up stepping all over each other and it's a nightmare to produce a working system. For example, our qmail RPM has 25 patches in it, many of which had to be manually re-written to patch cleanly.

While we've been watching Postfix for nearly as long as we've been using qmail (it was called vmailer back then), it's only been the last year or two that we've really been feeling it was clearly superior to qmail. Now, it would be nice if you could just use vpopmail with Postfix, but vpopmail is heavily dependent on qmail for the way it works. There's a kludge to get vpopmail working with Postfix, but (I kid you not) that involves installing and qmail and setting up Postfix to direct all mail to qmail. Hardly ideal.

vPostMaster, in one stroke, addresses all these concerns. First of all, it's running with Postfix which means you have access to it's rich set of included features like TLS encryption, SMTP AUTH support, regular expression-based rules for header and body checks, nice policy filter framework, and ongoing development cycle.

vPostMaster also includes a web management console which allows a site administrator to have management control over the system, accounts, and domains. Domain admin accounts can be created that can manage users within particular domains (within limits set by the site admin, such as maximum quota size and number of accounts). Users can even log in and manage their own account information.

A full suite of spam and virus protection is available as well, including via SpamAssassin, Greylisting, black/white listing, Anti-virus, rules based on the message envelope, Sender Policy Framework, with more coming. We plan to spend much of our development time in this area, adding more protection mechanisms such as Hashcash, RBLs, Bayesian filtering, etc… All this is integrated into the vPostMaster system and management console. Users can now manage their own spam settings.

All of this is integrated into an easy to install whole. The packaged installs, which we will be building more of, involves editing 1 file and running 3 simple commands.

So far, we've shown it off to quite a few folks, and feedback has been very positive. If you run a mail server, or are thinking of doing so, you should take a look at vPostMaster.

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